BeatStars has been making a lot of noise in the music industry this year.
Last month the online music production marketplace announced that it has paid out over $50 million to the producers who license and sell beats on the platform.
Prior to that announcement, it came to light that it was the source of the track used for Lil Nas X’s global hit Old Town Road.
That track was produced by a teenage Netherlands-based producer called YoungKio; Lil Nas X reportedly bought the track from the BeatStars user for $30.
Lil Nas X has since achieved global fame, a deal with Columbia Records and a Billy Ray Cyrus remix that has been streamed over 400m times on Spotify alone.
Lil Nas X’s success has highlighted BeatStars potential of being an online hit factory, while BeatStars’ success has shaken up the notion, not only of how a hit single can be made, but of how a living can be made from music production in 2019.
Founder Abe Batshon tells MBW that while he can’t guarantee another breakout mega hit like Old Town Road, there are “many” producers now making $4,000-$6,000 a month from the platform in the US.
There are also thousands making the equivalent of that globally, and “safe to say a sustainable living,” says Batshon.
“I don’t believe the traditional industry is structured to allow producers to create healthy businesses for themselves at scale.”
Abe Batshon, BeatStars
“I don’t believe the traditional industry is structured to allow producers to create healthy businesses for themselves at scale,” says Batshon. “It just wasn’t designed for it.”
Here, MBW asks Batshon how BeatStars, which paid out around $20m in 2018, alone is helping its producers circumvent the traditional music business…
Tell us about how the idea for BeatStars came about and the early days of the company?
I actually had the idea for BeatStars back in 1996 or 1997 while I was still in high school. I used to explore AOL chat rooms connecting with producers and artists from all over the world.
I met one super talented producer named Sho-Down [who sells beats on BeatStars today] and he directed me to his personal website where I was able to buy a beat and download the mp3 file. I thought the concept was absolutely genius and I told myself one day I was going to build a marketplace that not only housed one producer, but millions of producers connecting with artists around the world.
Could you tell us about the key personnel at the company?
In my eyes, all 20 people on our team are key and our company wouldn’t be able to function without each and every one of them. Everyone from our customer success staff to design, engineering, QA, management and marketing.
What differentiates BeatStars from similar companies/platforms operating in this space?
We are the pioneers and I say that humbly because I want all innovators to take pride in the work they do. We were the first company to introduce automated production licenses and delivery of high quality studio files.
The first to allow multiple collaborators on a track level and enable distribution of funds to all collaborators at the point of transaction. I’m not saying this to boast our ideas, but to exemplify we work everyday with purpose to help make as many music entrepreneurs as successful as possible with the tools we create.
“We want to make the days of not getting paid instantly and the bureaucracy of where you live geographically in order to make a living in music a thing of the past.”
Money doesn’t drive us. Our community drives us and the challenge to do something that’s never been done in music history. We want to make the days of not getting paid instantly and the bureaucracy of where you live geographically in order to make a living in music a thing of the past.
How does the platform work typically, in terms of licensing, royalties etc for both producers and artists?
We give all of our sellers the freedom to customize and edit the pre-drafted license agreements we make available. Some producers edit them and some don’t.
The most common transaction is a non-exclusive production license that allows the licensee to control the master of their version of the song. The producers generally control how the publishing is administered since this is a very low cost license ranging from $20-$300. Both the licensee [the songwriter] and licensor [the producer] share 50/50 in the writers share.
In a ROLLING STONE ARTICLE, it says there’s a dancehall producer in Albania making as much as $40,000 a month from Beatstars. Could you tell us about some other success stories like this?
We have thousands of producers making a living selling their beats on the platform. The Beat Demons, DreamLifeBeats, DJ Pain 1, Mantra, Cxdy, Young Kio (pictured inset), CashMoneyAP just to name a few.
BeatStars just announced that it has paid out $50m to artists on the platform, with $20m paid out in 2018 alone. what does the significance of these sums mean for BeatStars and for the digital marketplace?
The real significance in this is that more and more independent producers and songwriters are making a living without relying on the traditional industry. It means the way songs are made is moving into the digital space and more songs are being created than any time ever in history.
“BeatStars has a significant role in how songs are made in the present and the future.”
The way that artists and producers collaborate and connect has changed. It also means music making is much more accessible and affordable than ever before, which in turn increases the probability of someone creating a hit song. It means BeatStars has a significant role in how songs are made in the present and the future.
The Lil Nas X story, in particular, is much talked-about. Is this just an anomaly or do you foresee other hits as big as, or bigger than Old Town Road being created from tracks on BeatStars or other online talent/music marketplaces?
I don’t believe it’s an anomaly; I predicted that a No.1 hit would come from the platform when we first started the company.
I’m not sure there will ever be as massive of a song like Old Town Road but I’m very confident there will be songs made on BeatStars that will give it a run for its money. We’ve experienced a taste of this in the past with songs like Joyner Lucas’ I’m Not A Racist, Queen Naija’s Medicine and other multi-platinum songs.
Could you expand on that notion of BeatStars enabling artists and producers to circumvent the traditional label and publishing structure?
Because of our non-exclusive licensing model it essentially allows producers to keep beats in their catalog like other digital products that can be sold over and over again.
We have thousands of producers making a consistent living with this model which I don’t believe could have been possible if they were operating in the traditional music industry.
What are your hopes for BeatStars over the next couple of years?
My hopes have been the same for 11 years. Figure out how to leverage technology to help more and more independent creators become financially self-sufficient doing what they love doing. And of course expanding distribution with our mobile apps, iterating our current offering and making our products smarter and establishing new revenue streams for the content/services our creators offer.Music Business Worldwide